Micro-breweries give cheer to British beer drinkers

Thu May 23, 2013 9:59am EDT
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By Jonathan Cable

BRENTWOOD, England (Reuters) - Britain's love affair with quirkily named real ales and their demand for locally produced goods has led to a growing trend in micro-breweries that cater to the more discerning palate.

More than 1,000 brewers now operate across the country compared to just over 800 in late 2011, some working out of little more than a large garage but competing for drinkers with giants such as SABMiller and Greene King in a 16.5 billion pound ($24.82 billion) industry.

"We offer something different. We are not driven on a commercial bent to produce something that is universally popular," said Roland Kannor, managing director of the Brentwood Brewing Company, whose beers include Chockwork Orange and Marvellous Maple Mild.

"And it's nice to be selling something that people want to buy rather than have to buy."

With Britain only narrowly avoiding sinking into a triple-dip recession and wage growth failing to keep pace with inflation consumers have been careful about spending.

Still, campaigns supported by celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Nick Nairn have been launched to encourage people to shop locally while also getting something extra for their money.

"We plug into the idea that people have of local food and local produce and in times when people don't have much money they spend it on better quality products," said John Lewis, whose Treboom Brewery operates out of a former pig barn in Yorkshire.

The beer industry is worth around 16.5 billion pounds a year in Britain, the second largest in Europe after Germany, according to the British Beer & Pub Association. It is dominated by global giants who mass produce lagers, bitters and stouts.   Continued...

A customer poses for the camera with a pint of beer in a public house in Leeds, northern England October 13, 2008. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis